Our oldest loves this book called “Kiki and Coco in Paris,” a book about a girl and her doll exploring the sites of the ever lovely city of Paris. I keep telling my oldest how one day, if possible, I will take her there, just her and I and her doll. We'll stuff our faces with pastries and take in as much art as humanly possible. We'll sit beneath the sparkly gaze of the Eiffel Tower, my girl and I. The book ends with Kiki saying “Je t'aime” Coco, and the doll says back “Je t'aime Kiki”. So of course that is now what Amelie and I say to each other many nights.
“Je t’aime, Amelie”
“Je t’aime, Momma”
But then came November 13th, the tower became a symbol of remembrance and we, along with the world, ached for Paris.
I was in London on November 13th, when the bombs went off and shooters attacked. The sadness was substantial - it walked with everyone down the street, plastered on every news channel in shops and bars. It stirred the fears of past events, made people afraid for the future, and it was the first time I was terrified to go home.
My mind filled with thoughts about 9/11, Columbine, Brussels, Arvada, Kabul, and the list going on and on, I don’t even know a fraction of the dates or cities. It is easy to get depressed with the world because there is so much pain, so much loss, an outrageous amount of hate for the fellow man all contained on a small spinning sphere. It is hard to raise children in this kind of world, not knowing what they may face, knowing they are sheltered and safe right now, but tomorrow? And what about the mother I saw in that photo online? She was crying as her children clung to her, they had just made it to Greece but lost family in the water. A whole ocean holding loved ones in the deep dark.
I felt defeated when we came back from London, felt the world would never change, these stories would go on forever. But I was sitting in my kitchen when I received a text, and it was from my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. It was a photo, the children drew flowers, and with them were the words “love is stronger than hate.”
I needed that drawing, in all it’s scribble and innocence. I realized in a world that so often feels like hell, I do see vivid love all around me. It is present in my girls, present in the people I see on my street each day; in the nurse taking care of her patients, the lawyer fighting for good day in and day out. It grows in the homes built for low-income families and gardens planted to help a neighborhood. Love is found when a friend is forgiven, spouse held close, when you see the other. A friend attends a church where the people adopted an entire orphanage of children – they saw a need, knew they had to do something, and just took action. Just like that. Some others do this thing called a “love flash mob” and raised over a million dollars to help refugees (they did this twice!), that is some strength, that is some generous, very present, vivid love. I thought about my incredible friend, Vickie, who started an organization called We Welcome Refugees, encouraging people to open their arms to the stranger, equipping them to help people start over, asking those who say they believe in love to put action to words. There is a radical love growing, we can often miss it because pain and fear feel so big, so devastating. But when we put our hands to goodness, helping where help is needed, being selfless, turning our lives upside down for someone else, it affects anyone standing in close proximity and spreads.
I sat down at the piano, feeling this strong love rise in my bones, and wrote a song called “Hurricane.” I sang that song at the top of my lungs, hoping the energy and words would attach to the atoms taking flight and somehow people around me and across the ocean could feel it. I see a love amid the hate, people building something good amid the wreckage. Love is stronger than hate, I desperately hope you can feel it.